John 11:35

Thrice in the gospel narrative is Jesus recorded to have wept; viz. over the unbelieving and doomed city of Jerusalem, by the grave of his friend, Lazarus of Bethany, and in the garden of Gethsemane, when enduring the agony which all but overwhelmed his soul. Much valuable and consolatory reflection is suggested by the simple record, "Jesus wept."


1. It is obvious to say this capacity lay in his true human nature. As we read in Job, "Man is born to sorrow;" as our poet sings, "Man is made to mourn." Jesus was "a Man of sorrows."

2. Christ was capable of human sympathy. Men weep for themselves, and they weep for others. The tears of Jesus were tears shed, not for himself, but for members of this race whose nature he assumed.

3. This capacity lay yet deeper in our Lord's Divinity. It is unjust to represent God as unfeeling; he is susceptible of some deep "painless sympathy with pain." He pities and grieves over the sorrow he nevertheless in wisdom and in love permits.

II. THE OCCASIONS OF CHRIST'S TEARS. The narrative reveals:

1. His personal sorrow for the death of his friend. He had been wont to come to Bethany to meet with a cordial welcome and a friendly smile from Lazarus. And as he knew the joys of friendship, so did he experience the distress of bereavement. There was justice in the exclamation of the Jews, "Behold how he loved him!"

2. His sympathy with the grief of the bereaved sisters. Mary and Martha were nearest in kindred and in affection to the deceased Lazarus; and Jesus, who loved all three, could not but feet for the sisters whom he found in sorrow and in tears.

3. Consciousness of the power of sin. Nothing less than this can account for the prevalence and the bitterness of the heart's anguish. Jesus, who knew all things, knew this; it was sin which "brought death into the world with all its woes." In every instance of human mortality Jesus could not fail to discern the bitterer root of fruit so bitter. Hence the strong emotion he displayed, as he groaned and was stirred and moved by the mighty wave of feeling which swept over his soul.

III. THE PRACTICAL OUTCOME OF CHRIST'S TEARS. There are cases in which tears are a substitute for help. It was not so in the instance before us. The heart that found expression for its woe in tears, found expression for its sympathy and pity in the reaching out of a hand of help. Jesus first wept, and then succored the sorrowful and raised the dead. Christian sympathy should be like Christ's sympathy, which was not content with words and tears, but made for itself a way of practical compassion.


1. They assure us that we have in him a feeling Friend, who in all our afflictions is afflicted.

2. They teach us a lesson of sympathy - that we should "weep with those who weep."

3. They remind us by contrast of that state where "all tears shall be wiped from off all faces."

"The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown." T.

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping.
In this history our Saviour appears under two very different aspects. As the sun, on some days, sometimes shines out in full strength, and sometimes is clouded over, and yet is still the same fountain of light, so it is with our Sun of Righteousness, on the day of the resurrection of Lazarus. He shines in full splendour when He exerts His power over the grave, and breaks asunder the bonds of death: but He hides all that majesty when He appears under a great commotion of mind, which vents itself in sighs and tears.

(J. Jortin, D. D.)

After sore bereavement, Sir Walter Scott says," I was broken-hearted for two years: and though handsomely pieced again, the crack will remain to my dying day." Tears — Tears are the inheritance of our eyes; either our sufferings call for them or our sins; and nothing can wholly dry them up but the dust of the grave.

(Bp. Hopkins.)

He groaned in spirit.
The word occurs also in ver. 38; Matthew 9:30; Mark 1:43; Mark 14:5. The original meaning is "to snort, as of horses." Passing to the moral sense, it expresses disturbance of mind — vehement agitation. This may express itself in sharp admonition, in words of anger against a person, or in a physical shudder, answering to the intensity of the emotion. In each of the earlier Gospels the word is accompanied by an object upon which the feeling is directed. In the present context it does not go beyond the subject of the feeling. Here it is "in the spirit" (cf. John 12:21), and in ver. 38 it is "in Himself." Both mean the same thing; and point to the inner moral depth of His righteous indignation. Taken in connection with what follows some such rendering is required as "He was indignant in the spirit and caused Himself to shudder."

(Archdeacon Watkins.)

At what and with whom was Jesus indignant? The notion of some Greek expositors that it was with Himself — that we have here the indications of an inward struggle to repress, as something weak and unworthy, that human pity, which found presently its utterance in tears — cannot be accepted for an instant. Christianity demands the regulation of the natural affections, but it does not, like stoicism, demand their suppression; so far from this it bids us "weep with them that weep" and "seek not altogether to dry the stream of sorrow, but to bound it and keep it within its banks." Some suppose Him indignant in spirit at the hostile dispositions of the Jews and the unbelief with which this signal work of His would be received. Others, that His indignation was excited by the unbelief of Martha and Mary and the others, which they manifested in their weeping, testifying that they did not believe that He would raise their dead. But He Himself wept presently, and there was nothing in these natural tears of theirs to rouse a feeling of displeasure. Rather was it the indignation which the Lord of Life felt at all that sin had wrought. He beheld death in all its dread significance, as the wages of sin; the woes of a whole world, of which this was a little sample, rose up before His eyes: all its mourners and all its graves were present to Him. For that He was about to wipe away the tears of those present and turn for a little while their sorrow into joy, did not truly alter the case. Lazarus rose again, but only to taste a second time the bitterness of death; these mourners He might comfort, but only for a season; these tears he might staunch, only again hereafter to flow; and how many had flowed and must flow with no such Comforter to wipe them even for a season away. As He contemplated all this, a mighty indignation at the author of all this anguish possessed His heart. And now he will no longer delay, but will do at once battle with death and with Him that hath the power of death; and spoiling though but in part the goods of the strong man armed, will give proof that a stronger is here.

(Abp. Trench.)

He was troubled, rather "troubled Himself," for a certain Divine decorum tempers all we read of Him, and He is not represented to us as possessing a nature to be played upon by passive emotions. Why? We cannot fully tell. Perhaps, we may conceive the case of a physician coming into a room, where friends and children are sobbing over one whom they supposed to be doomed, himself weeping in sympathy though sure that he can heal. But at least this shows us that we have a real Christ. It was never invented. The imaginary Christ would have walked majestically up the slope of the Mount of Olives, and, standing with a halo of the sunset around his brow, have bidden the dead to rise. The real Christ was a dusty and wayworn man, who wept over the grave, and lifted up His eyes. The reality teaches us that the dead are not raised by a stoic philosopher, with an eye of ice and a heart of marble, but by One who is very Man with the tender weakness that is more beautiful than all our strength. His is more majestic as well as more moving. But could St. John have invented it?

(Bp. Alexander.)

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